Maryland Wills + Estate Planning Lawyer

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Many people spend their entire lives providing and caring for their families and loved ones. When someone dies, they want to ensure that those people who are important in their lives are not left without support. Through careful estate planning, you can ensure that your wishes for your family and loved ones are known. Additionally, you are also able to offer mementos to friends and make arrangements for your funeral and burial.

Thinking about your eventual death is never easy. However, that does not mean you should not address the situation. Our Maryland wills and estate planning lawyer can help you understand what tools and instruments are available. Every situation is different, so you want to tailor your estate plan to your needs. The experienced attorneys and staff at Rice, Murtha & Psoras have been assisting Maryland residents for decades. To start preparing for your future, call our office at (410) 431-0911 to schedule a free consultation.

The Importance of a Will in Maryland

If you die without a valid will, you are considered to have died “intestate.” When a person dies intestate, they have no control over what happens after their death. Maryland law will dictate how your possessions and property are distributed among your surviving relatives. In nearly every case, the prescribed formula the state uses will not coincide with your wishes. In fact, it is not uncommon in situations where someone dies intestate that their families and loved ones are left without a means of support.

For instance, if you are not married and have been living with a partner for years, they will not have any rights under Maryland’s intestate distribution. Another typical issue that many people are unaware of is that a spouse might have to share an estate with the surviving parents of the deceased. Maryland’s intestate succession laws also treat half-siblings in the same manner as whole-siblings while making no provisions for stepchildren. Furthermore, without a valid will, your minor children might not be provided for as you intended.

If you have a complicated family situation or want to ensure that your loved ones and family are provided for in the event of your death, it is crucial to speak with an experienced Ellicott City, MD wills and estates lawyer to understand your available options.

Establishing a Will for a Maryland Estate

Wills are likely the most fundamental document that every individual should draft when creating an estate plan. A creator of a will, also referred to as the testator, could use a will to oversee the distribution of real estate, personal property, and other possessions after they pass away. If you wish to leave all your property to your favorite organizations after you die, a valid will could help you accomplish that goal.

Additionally, a will could be used for many other reasons. For instance, if you wish to designate a guardian for your minor children if you pass away before they reach the age of majority, a valid will could help you address this matter.

Legal Prerequisites for a Valid Will in Maryland

Maryland has a few requirements that must be met before a will is considered valid. The first requirement is that the creator of the legal document be at least 18 years of age.

Will Drafting and Witness Requirements

Next, the testator will have to place the will in writing and sign at the end of the document. While Maryland does permit testators to draft handwritten or holographic wills, they must still be executed in accordance with the laws of the state.

After signing the will, the testator must have at least two witnesses attest to the signing of it by the testator. The witnesses must also sign the document affirming that the testator signed the will of his or her own volition. When selecting witnesses to attest to the signing of a will, your best option would be to pick disinterested witnesses. While you could select a beneficiary to act as a spectator or another interested party, this may lead to a will challenge in the future.

The testator should also be sure to name a personal representative and replacements for that representative in the will. The personal representative will be responsible for carrying out the testator’s wishes after they pass away.

Sound Mind Requirement

Another requirement is that the testator must be of sound mind when they execute the will. A testator of sound mind will be capable of the following:

  • Ability to understand the purpose of a will and why they are creating the will (e.g., leave property to their children)
  • Testator understands their relationship with other people that would typically be a beneficiary in a person’s will, such as a spouse, children, or a parent
  • The testator has a firm understanding of all the property they own that they can convey to beneficiaries.

Many will contests are often based on the grounds that the will drafter was not of sound mind when they executed a will. If successful, a will challenger could invalidate the will or possibly even have a previous will made valid if it was executed while the testator was mentally competent.

To learn more about other estate planning measures that you could utilize for your estate, do not hesitate to contact our Waldorf, MD wills and estates attorney today.

Maryland Estate Planning Tools

A will is often the foundation for a good estate plan. However, there are many areas that a will cannot cover. As a result, it would be wise to consider other options for your estate plan that can address many other matters that you may not normally think about.

One common estate planning tool is a durable power of attorney document. This document allows the creator to appoint an individual to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf in the event the creator becomes incapacitated. For instance, if a creator of the document can no longer operate their business, the representative could act in the best interests of the business.

A power of attorney for healthcare purposes could also be created. This form permits a named individual to make healthcare decisions when you are not able. This means if you need an important operation, but you are not able to consent to the procedure, the appointee could consent on your behalf.
These are just a few ways that estate planning could help you prepare for a number of unexpected events. Our firm would be pleased to serve you in planning the future of your estate.

Legal Requirements for a Valid Will in Maryland

If you want to provide for your family and loved ones in the event of your death, you need to ensure that your will is legally valid and enforceable. First, a will must be in writing to be enforceable under Maryland law. Additionally, the individual making the will must be eighteen or older and of sound mind. Sound mind means that the individual has a clear understanding of their assets and is able to express their wishes for their property after their death. Furthermore, a will must be signed in front of two witnesses who will also have to sign and attest that they saw the testator sign the will. If you fail to follow the legal procedures necessary to draft an enforceable document, your will could be contested.

It is not uncommon for someone who has a will to simply forget about it, believing they have provided for their family. However, many people in Maryland often want to amend their existing wills as their life circumstances have changed, including acquiring additional property, having more children, or divorcing and remarrying. Your will should express your most current wishes. When someone fails to address the changes in their lives in their will, their desires are not carried out or understood. Additionally, if there was an existing will, it must be formally destroyed or revoked to avoid confusion. Our Baltimore wills and estates lawyer will explain this process.

Estate Planning in Maryland

In many cases, a will is all a person needs. However, in other situations, a trust or other instrument is required. Our Silver Spring, MD estate planning attorney will work with you to understand your individual needs and thoroughly review your financial circumstances to provide an estate plan that addresses your needs and wishes.

In addition to planning for your family’s future without you, you need to consider offering instructions for your medical care and control of your financial accounts if you become incapacitated.

An advance medical directive is vital to ensure your family understands your wishes regarding your medical treatment. By providing detailed provisions and appointing a trusted representative, you can rest easy knowing you will be receiving the level of medical treatment you desire if you are unable to communicate your instructions.

It is crucial to ensure that your family has access to your financial accounts and can make decisions if you are incapacity due to a medical condition or accident. A power of attorney will allow your family to pay bills and keep themselves financially afloat if you cannot manage your finances.

Call Our Maryland Wills + Estate Planning Lawyer for a Free Consultation

No one wants to think about their death. However, you want to make sure your family and loved ones are left with the support they need in the event of your death or incapacity. Because each situation is unique, you need to tailor your estate plan to fit your wishes and needs. While there are many boilerplate wills and other estate planning documents available, they will likely not address all your concerns. An experienced estate planning attorney will take the time to thoroughly understand your situation and help create a plan that is unique as you are. The Bethesda, MD wills and estate planning lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras have provided advice and counsel to our clients for decades. Call (410) 431-0911 to schedule a free consultation.